Today at Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report on ZDNet, I listed some of the upgrade scenarios that will be possible when Windows Vista ships. All three consumer versions – Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate – will be included on the same CD or DVD. You don’t need to go to the store and purchase a new shrink-wrapped box to upgrade; all you have to do is go to Control Panel and run the Windows Anytime Upgrade program.
I’ve just installed Windows Home Basic on a test computer here and snapped some screen shots to show what the process looks like.
Hit the link for the screenshots and more details, but it looks like the retail and OEM partners will be tied in to sell the user a product key for an instant upgrade. That would seem to put to rest the originally rumored version of the plan as a way for Microsoft to cut out the partners and get a “direct relationship with corporate customers and consumers.” I can’t really imagine that Microsoft wants to intrude into the messy business of providing support for OEM hardware when the OEMs have been so nicely saddled with it.
That aspect aside, it will be interesting to see how this actually works out. Since more than few OEMs don’t actually provide a OS installation disk, I expect that all versions will be simultaneously loaded on the PCs as shipped and just awaiting a key to be unlocked. There will undoubtedly also be quite a few folks trying to build passkeys.
However, the slick upgrade mechanism also strikes me as the sugar that makes the medicine of all the separate versions go down. Every purchaser of a PC from the major vendors is already faced with a preloaded batch of trial and limited function software that wants an infusion of cash to be enabled. This plan makes the Vista OS look the same way. The consumer buys a low priced machine with Vista Home Basic and is immediately faced with getting out his credit card if he wants to do some of that cool Vista stuff he has heard about, but wasn’t perspicacious enough to discover he couldn’t with the standard configuration. As I said above, it will be interesting to see how this actually works out.